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In The Scarlet Letter, what does Chillingworth say to Hester in the prison cell?Explain...

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jonny26 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 11, 2011 at 6:56 AM via web

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In The Scarlet Letter, what does Chillingworth say to Hester in the prison cell?

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amymc | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted July 17, 2011 at 2:25 AM (Answer #1)

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The meeting between Chillingworth and Hester is a pivotal introductory scene in that the reader learns that the two were, and still are, married, and that the child is obviously not his.  Chillingworth is a doctor called to tend to Hester and her child, and at first Hester fears he plans to harm her and her child. Chillingworth has far worse ideas in mind, and the conversation soon turns to other areas.

They begin by discussing the demise of their relationship.  Chillingworth admits to being an emotionally and physically absent husband and Hester admits to marrying him without love:

Nay, from the moment when we came down the old church-steps together, a married pair, I might have beheld the bale-fire of that scarlet letter blazing at the end of our path!"

Chillingworth, as the scorned husband, demands to know the identity of Pearl's father.   Hester refuses, as she did on the scaffold. Chillingworth vows to discover his identity and take revenge:

I shall see him tremble. I shall feel myself shudder, suddenly and unawares. Sooner or later, he must needs be mine!”

This conflict sets up the action for the remainder of the novel and foreshadow's Dimmesdale's demise.

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